A 19-year-old Dalit woman in Uttar Pradesh’s Hathras was allegedly tortured and gang-raped by four upper-caste men on September 14. She succumbed to her injuries on September 29. The UP police reportedly cremated her body in the dead of the night early September 30 as family members and villagers attempted to stop the funeral process.

The accused were charged with gang-rape and attempt to murder 10 days after the incident based on the victim’s statement who was fighting for her life in Delhi’s Safdarjung hospital. Following her tragic demise, the UP police said there is “no proof” of rape. Hours later, she was cremated without the family’s consent as cops blocked relatives, the media and protesters from the funeral ground.

The police denied that the woman’s last rites were performed without her family’s permission. A video has been pushed on social media platforms to support the police’s version of events. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Haryana IT cell head Arun Yadav tweeted, “Victim’s family did her last rites themselves.” He blamed the media for ‘propaganda’.

The video shows a person behind the camera questioning an elderly man’s relationship with the victim. While the old man is barely audible, people around him say, “Ladki ke baba hai ye (He is the woman’s baba.)” The word ‘baba’ could mean father, grandfather or an elderly male relative/ acquaintance. The voice behind the camera then says, “Aap baba ho na? (You’re her baba right?)” to which the man nods his head in affirmative. “Acha thik hai (Alright then),” the person behind the camera says, following which the audio is muted for six seconds. The subsequent scenes show people, including the elderly man, performing rituals around the pyre.

The same video was tweeted by Priti Gandhi, social media in-charge of BJP Mahila Morcha.

BJP UP spokesperson Shalabh Mani Tripathi retweeted the video posted by Prashant Patel Umrao.

Several BJP members and supporters also shared the video — Vikas Pandey, @BefittingFacts, Ritu Rathaur, @chintanvedant and @BobbyGandhi3.

Hathras district magistrate claimed that the deceased’s father and brother consented to the funeral and her family members were present during the last rites.

Did the victim’s family members participate in her funeral?

India Today journalist Tanushree Pandey was reporting live from the ground in the early hours of Wednesday. She tweeted a video where villagers and family members are seen blocking the ambulance and begging the police to let them take their daughter home. The pleas, however, fell on deaf ears and a burning pyre could be spotted at a distance.

The victim’s brother confirmed to Alt News that no one from his family was permitted to attend the cremation. He also said that his grandfather died in 2006 which means that the elderly man in the video cannot be the woman’s grandfather.

Several other outlets showed visuals of women blocking the ambulance carrying the victim’s body.

NDTV spoke with relatives locked inside their houses alleging that neither did they consent to the funeral nor was the victim’s body handed over. One of the men says that the deceased’s father consulted relatives and decided that the funeral will be held in the morning with all customs and rituals. However, the police did not permit the family to attend the dead-of-night cremation.

Mojo spoke with the woman’s father who stated that the police locked the family inside their house and conducted her funeral in their absence.

The father’s statement was also taken by NDTV at night when the cops formed a human chain to disallow people, including media persons, from entering the funeral ground.

CNN’s Marya Shakil reported that the family’s wishes to conduct a funeral with Hindu rituals were not met as the police performed her last rites. The victim’s mother said, “They [police] did not give my daughter’s body. They took her away. They could’ve at least let me see her face one last time. But they didn’t let us bring her body home. We pleaded but they didn’t listen.”

In another video, the mother can be seen inconsolably wailing and saying that she wants to perform her daughter’s last rites with Hindu rituals.

The victim’s brother also said that her dead body was forcibly cremated.

Her sister-in-law alleged that the police placed someone near the pyre to falsely project that the family was present during the funeral.

Journalist Arvind Gunasekar wrote that the Uttar Pradesh government claimed that the victim’s ‘uncle’ performed her last rites. However, her parents maintained that they weren’t at the site.

According to an NDTV report, “Amid spiralling outrage, the Hathras police claimed the cremation was carried out with the family’s consent and some members were present. It turned out to be one uncle – not her parents – who was called and shown the cremation.”

Initial reports from the ground do not support the UP police and state administration’s claim that the funeral was not conducted forcibly. Scenes from early hours of September 30 show a distraught family begging cops to let them take their deceased daughter home one last time. Their pleas were met with coercion. Family members were locked inside their homes while the police formed a human chain around the funeral ground where the alleged rape victim’s body burnt without her parents in sight. A video of a frail elderly man tossing logs of wood in the pyre was used to claim that her family performed the last rites. The man, however, was not a part of the victim’s immediate family.

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About the Author

Pooja Chaudhuri is a senior editor at Alt News.